2011 is going to be a pretty big year for gaming. The launch of the 3DS is looming large, Sony’s prepping a stable of high-profile sequels, and a bunch of games that were delayed out of their planned 2010 releases will finally arrive. That last item raises the question of which high-profile 2011 games will actually see release this year, and which ones will be shoved – either by longer-than-expected development cycles or market forces – into the uncertain void of 2012.
You know it’s going to happen. It always happens. It’s just a question of what it’ll happen to. In order to properly brace for unexpected disappointment, we’ve taken a look at some of 2011’s biggest releases and – based on what little we know now – made a few guesses as to what’s going to be pushed out to next year.
Scoff all you want, but remember: the last time we did this, our predictions were 100 percent accurate. Will we repeat that success? Let’s hope not.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
First announced: December 2010
Since then, we’ve seen: A screenshot-filled preview in the latest issue of Game Informer (along with a coded poem and a bunch of behind-the-scenes videos shot at Bethesda's offices), and also this announcement trailer:
Why it’ll be delayed: This prediction might be a little shaky, seeing as Skyrim has a cool-looking release date – 11/11/11 – that it would be an awful damn shame to miss. However, experience has taught us that release dates on trailers are never as ironclad as they seem, and that goes double for teaser trailers that don’t feature so much as a glimpse of the actual game.
That is unless Skyrim turns out to be some kind of side-scroller in which all the characters look like animated carvings in a stone relief. Actually, that idea sounds kind of awesome. Someone should totally make that.
Above: Go on, tell us you wouldn’t play a game that looks just like this
And yeah, we're aware that since that trailer went live, Bethesda's released a ton of screens and behind-the-scenes videos through Game Informer that show the game is pretty well underway. However, that isn't necessarily the same as being less than a year from market-readiness, especially when we're talking about a game of Skyrim's scope. Also, those of you with particularly long memories might remember that The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was originally slated for a similar fall release in 2005, but then pushed back to the following March. Four years before that, the exact same thing happened to the third ES game, Morrowind. So it’s not like there isn’t a precedent here.
Best-case scenario (if we’re wrong): Given that Bethesda hasn’t really produced a game since 2008’s Fallout 3, it’s not out of the question that we’ll see Skyrim break the delay curse of the last two Elder Scrolls games. In that case, we can expect to see a wider preview session around GDC or, at the latest, E3. And that all-ones release date will turn out to have been more than just optimistic hubris.
Mass Effect 3
First announced: February 2008
Since then, we’ve seen: This teaser trailer from the 2010 VGAs:
Why it’ll be delayed: Like a lot of the entries in this article, we’re singling out Mass Effect 3 mainly because we’ve barely seen it – and 12 months out from the release of any major game, we’ve usually seen a lot more than just a cinematic teaser. But that’s not the only reason; after all, it’s not unheard of for a huge, triple-A game to have a stealthy sequel within a year. Assassin’s Creed II did it, and we didn’t even know that AC: Brotherhood existed until last May.
But more than that, our skepticism comes from everything else BioWare’s planning on doing this year. It isn’t quite the small operation it used to be, true, but we’re skeptical of any (non-Square Enix) developer that claims it can turn out three super-high-profile RPGs – one of which is an MMO – in a single year. (Four, if you count the PS3 release of Mass Effect 2.)
Above: This is Mass Effect 2 on PS3, but since it’s running in the Mass Effect 3 engine, it’s the closest thing we have to an ME3 screenshot
Dragon Age II and The Old Republic? Those we can believe. We’ve been seeing quite a bit of them for a while now, and their targeted release dates are early enough that a delay probably wouldn’t push them out of the calendar year. However, getting those two to market AND rolling out Mass Effect 3 – sequel to one of the biggest, most impressive games of 2010 – in time for a nebulous holiday release is a pretty tall order.
We’re not saying it’s impossible – just that we’ll be surprised if it happens. A slip into next January seems much more likely, especially considering that that’s when both the PC/360 and PS3 versions of Mass Effect 2 hit.
Above: Still just ME2. Sorry if we got your hopes up
Best-case scenario (if we’re wrong): It’ll turn out that the only reason BioWare wasn’t showing off ME3 was because it didn’t want to overshadow Mass Effect 2‘s PS3 debut, in which case we’ll see a big reveal in the coming weeks – or, at the latest, during next month’s GDC.